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Prison Legal News: September, 2015

Issue PDF
Volume 26, Number 9

In this issue:

  1. Life Without Parole (p 1)
  2. Legislation Removes Secrecy from Georgia Parole Board’s Proceedings, Decisions (p 9)
  3. From the Editor (p 10)
  4. Delaware: Drop in Prison Phone Rates Called a “Drop in the Bucket” (p 11)
  5. Is Texas Poisoning Prisoners with Contaminated Water? (p 12)
  6. Mandamus Improper Remedy to Challenge Illinois DOC’s “Violating at the Door” Policy (p 14)
  7. Texas County Pays Prisoner’s Family $214,500 for Wrongful Death (p 15)
  8. Prisoners Pay Millions to Call Loved Ones Every Year. Now this Company Wants Even More (p 16)
  9. Jails in Trouble as IRS Investigates Tax-Exempt Bonds (p 18)
  10. Nevada: Federal Suit over Shackling of Pregnant Prisoner Settles for $130,000 and Policy Changes (p 20)
  11. BOP Ordered to Pay Prisoner’s Attorneys $41,703 for Discovery Abuses (p 21)
  12. British Banking Giant Fined for Laundering Mexican Drug Money Through U.S. Banks (p 22)
  13. Two Reports Find at Least 54 Countries Complicit in Secret CIA Prisons (p 24)
  14. Alabama: Settlement to Integrate HIV-Positive Prisoners Finalized (p 26)
  15. Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction (p 27)
  16. Mental Health Care in South Carolina Prisons Found Unconstitutional (p 28)
  17. $290,000 Judgment for Failure to Treat Ruptured Appendix Affirmed (p 28)
  18. Ninth Circuit Orders New Trial in “Pink Underwear” Lawsuit; Case Settles for $240,000 (p 30)
  19. Social Impact Bonds in Criminal Justice: A Deal We Can’t Refuse? (p 32)
  20. Federal Court Orders Cameras to Cover Blind Spots at North Carolina Prison (p 35)
  21. Oregon Workgroup Recommends Strategies to Deal with Prison Medical Care Costs (p 36)
  22. Rejecting Foreign Language Letters after Interpretation May Violate Prisoner’s Rights (p 38)
  23. $400,000 Settlement in New Jersey Juvenile Solitary Confinement Suit (p 38)
  24. Illinois Supreme Court Affirms Supervised Release Period Despite Sentencing Omission (p 39)
  25. Vermont Newspaper Defends Hiring Reporter with Sex Offense Conviction (p 40)
  26. Former Illinois Drug Court Judge Gets Prison Time Following Fellow Judge’s Fatal Overdose (p 42)
  27. How U.S. Prison Officials Rubberstamped a CIA Torture Chamber (p 42)
  28. Seventh Circuit Upholds Wisconsin Sex Offender Registration Fee, Names John Doe Plaintiffs (p 43)
  29. Prison Legal News Wins FOIA Appeal Against BOP (p 44)
  30. Fourth Circuit Finds Strip Searches and Delousing of Arrestees Constitutional (p 44)
  31. Seventh Circuit: New Trial for Wrong Legal Standard in Jail Death Case (p 46)
  32. Washington Prisoner Granted Injunction Ordering Outside Orthopedic Evaluation (p 46)
  33. Court Denies Challenge to D.C. Sex Offender’s Website on Registry Officials (p 48)
  34. Terrorism Suspect Moves to Suppress Statements Made to FBI due to Torture Threats (p 48)
  35. Vice President’s Son Discharged from Navy Due to Drug Use (p 50)
  36. Michigan: Perjured Testimony at Trial Results in Habeas Relief, but Reversed on Appeal (p 50)
  37. Automatic Placement of Death Row Prisoner in Segregation Does Not Violate Due Process (p 52)
  38. Tennessee Jail Considers Charging for Toilet Paper, Underwear (p 52)
  39. ACLU Awarded $50 Million to Help End Mass Incarceration (p 53)
  40. Illinois University Faculty Member and PLN Contributor Fights for His Job after Opposing New County Jail (p 54)
  41. Seventh Circuit Reverses Verdict when Prisoner Not Allowed to Poll Jury (p 56)
  42. Liability against Taser for Negligence Upheld but $5.5 Million Damages Award Reversed (p 56)
  43. Corporations You’ve Never Heard of are Making Millions from Mass Incarceration (p 58)
  44. Texas Prisoner Held in Prison 35 Years after Conviction Vacated (p 60)
  45. News in Brief (p 63)

Life Without Parole

Life Without Parole

Inside the secretive world of parole boards, where your freedom may depend on politics and whim.

by Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project*

Reynaldo Rodriguez was 19 with a young son, a good job and no criminal record when he shot and killed a man. As part of ...

Legislation Removes Secrecy from Georgia Parole Board’s Proceedings, Decisions

Legislation Removes Secrecy from Georgia Parole Board’s Proceedings, Decisions

by David M. Reutter

Unlike any other state agency, Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles (GBPP) makes its major decisions behind closed doors, and virtually all the information contained in its files is considered a “confidential state secret.”

That secrecy ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

Since PLN first began publishing in 1990 we have reported on parole systems and their inherent arbitrariness and cruelty. Today there is a lot of rhetoric about a “liberal-conservative alliance” on criminal justice issues and the need for reform. This is hardly the first ...

Delaware: Drop in Prison Phone Rates Called a “Drop in the Bucket”

Delaware: Drop in Prison Phone Rates Called a “Drop in the Bucket”

by Derek Gilna

Delaware’s prison phone rates will be reduced as a result of a new contract entered into between the state Department of Correction (DOC) and Global Tel*Link (GTL) that will run from July 21, 2015 ...

Is Texas Poisoning Prisoners with Contaminated Water?

Is Texas Poisoning Prisoners with Contaminated Water?

by Panagioti Tsolkas

When the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) named a prison unit after the late warden Wallace Pack they should have guessed it would have a problem with water, as he once did. In 1981, Pack was drowned by a ...

Mandamus Improper Remedy to Challenge Illinois DOC’s “Violating at the Door” Policy

Mandamus Improper Remedy to Challenge Illinois DOC’s “Violating at the Door” Policy

by David Reutter

On November 20, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to assume jurisdiction over a petition for writ of mandamus seeking to declare the state prison system’s practice of “violating at the door” unconstitutional. The rationale ...

Texas County Pays Prisoner’s Family $214,500 for Wrongful Death

Texas County Pays Prisoner’s Family $214,500 for Wrongful Death

For two days in August 2011, Shawn Appell beat his head against a wall in his cell at the Llano County, Texas jail as guards Scottie Bryan Scoggins and Donny Stewart listened to the sounds of his self-inflicted injuries but ...

Prisoners Pay Millions to Call Loved Ones Every Year. Now this Company Wants Even More

Prisoners Pay Millions to Call Loved Ones Every Year. Now this Company Wants Even More

by Ben Walsh, Huffington Post

A captive market, no competition and government contracts that make monopoly-enabled price gouging the industry standard – it’s never been in doubt that the prison phone business is a very ...

Jails in Trouble as IRS Investigates Tax-Exempt Bonds

Jails in Trouble as IRS Investigates Tax-Exempt Bonds

by Matt Clarke

Jails financed with tax-exempt revenue bonds, including numerous facilities in Texas, are scrambling to sell or refinance their debt following investigations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into whether the bonds are properly classified as tax exempt. County officials ...

Nevada: Federal Suit over Shackling of Pregnant Prisoner Settles for $130,000 and Policy Changes

Nevada: Federal Suit over Shackling of Pregnant Prisoner Settles for $130,000 and Policy Changes

by Matt Clarke

On February 4, 2014, the Nevada Department of Corrections (DOC) settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by a former prisoner who was shackled during her pregnancy. The Board of State Prison ...

BOP Ordered to Pay Prisoner’s Attorneys $41,703 for Discovery Abuses

BOP Ordered to Pay Prisoner’s Attorneys $41,703 for Discovery Abuses

by Derek Gilna

Federal prisoner Randall Todd Royer, also known as Ismail Royer, has engaged in a long legal battle with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) related to his conditions of confinement, stemming from the BOP classifying him as ...

British Banking Giant Fined for Laundering Mexican Drug Money Through U.S. Banks

British Banking Giant Fined for Laundering Mexican Drug Money Through U.S. Banks

by Matt Clarke

In December 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined major British bank HSBC almost $2 billion following an investigation that found HSBC was being used by Mexican cartels to launder drug money ...

Two Reports Find at Least 54 Countries Complicit in Secret CIA Prisons

Two Reports Find at Least 54 Countries Complicit in Secret CIA Prisons

by Matt Clarke

The Central Intelligence Agency operated a network of prisons around the globe where suspected terrorists were routinely tortured, and in some cases the agency secured funding for foreign governments to pave the way for greater ...

Alabama: Settlement to Integrate HIV-Positive Prisoners Finalized

Alabama: Settlement to Integrate HIV-Positive Prisoners Finalized

by David M. Reutter

An Alabama federal district court has approved a settlement that integrates HIV-positive prisoners into the state prison system’s general population, finding it “fair, adequate, and reasonable.” The change in the status of HIV-positive prisoners came after decades of ...

Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction

Former New York Prisoner Receives $3,375,000 Settlement for Wrongful Conviction

by Derek Gilna

A New York man who was the victim of egregious police misconduct obtained a $3.375 million settlement from the State of New York after serving 17 years in prison for two murders he did ...

Mental Health Care in South Carolina Prisons Found Unconstitutional

Mental Health Care in South Carolina Prisons Found Unconstitutional

by David M. Reutter

On January 8, 2014, a South Carolina state court entered judgment in a decade-long class-action lawsuit, finding that mental health care in the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) exposed seriously mentally ill prisoners to a substantial ...

$290,000 Judgment for Failure to Treat Ruptured Appendix Affirmed

$290,000 Judgment for Failure to Treat Ruptured Appendix Affirmed

by David Reutter

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $290,000 judgment in a civil rights action alleging deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs. The appellate court’s order affirmed a Louisiana federal district court judgment ...

Ninth Circuit Orders New Trial in “Pink Underwear” Lawsuit; Case Settles for $240,000

On February 13, 2013, in an amended ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for the estate of a deceased mentally ill prisoner, finding the district court had improperly excluded admissible testimony and a rebuttal closing argument.

Eric Vogel had been severely mentally ill since age ...

Social Impact Bonds in Criminal Justice: A Deal We Can’t Refuse?

Social Impact Bonds in Criminal Justice: A Deal We Can’t Refuse?

by Jennifer R. Zelnick, MSW, ScD

Over the past several years there has been a lot of buzz about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). More recently criticisms have emerged, along with early results of SIB projects. This article will examine ...

Federal Court Orders Cameras to Cover Blind Spots at North Carolina Prison

Federal Court Orders Cameras to Cover Blind Spots at North Carolina Prison

by David Reutter

On August 22, 2013, a North Carolina federal district court ordered attorneys representing the state prison system to present a plan to ensure adequate security camera coverage at the Central Prison in Raleigh. The court’s ...

Oregon Workgroup Recommends Strategies to Deal with Prison Medical Care Costs

Oregon Workgroup Recommends Strategies to Deal with Prison Medical Care Costs

by Mark Wilson

State officials in Oregon continue to grapple with the rising cost of prisoner health care, which largely stems from a rapidly-expanding population of elderly prisoners who have costly physical and mental health care needs.

Over the ...

Rejecting Foreign Language Letters after Interpretation May Violate Prisoner’s Rights

Rejecting Foreign Language Letters after Interpretation May Violate Prisoner’s Rights

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court denied summary judgment to prison officials in a civil rights action involving First Amendment violations. State prisoner Ali Musaid Muthana alleged that his incoming and outgoing mail was destroyed because it ...

$400,000 Settlement in New Jersey Juvenile Solitary Confinement Suit

$400,000 Settlement in New Jersey Juvenile Solitary Confinement Suit

by Derek Gilna

In December 2013, the Juvenile Law Center, a non-profit public interest law firm based in Philadelphia, won a $400,000 settlement on behalf of two adolescents who spent months in solitary confinement in New Jersey’s juvenile justice ...

Illinois Supreme Court Affirms Supervised Release Period Despite Sentencing Omission

Illinois Supreme Court Affirms Supervised Release Period Despite Sentencing Omission

by Derek Gilna

The Illinois Supreme Court has affirmed the imposition of a period of mandatory supervised release (MSR) that was inadvertently omitted from a sentence by the trial court. Billy McChriston was convicted in 2004 of unlawful delivery of ...

Vermont Newspaper Defends Hiring Reporter with Sex Offense Conviction

Vermont Newspaper Defends Hiring Reporter with Sex Offense Conviction

by Matt Clarke

The publisher of a Vermont newspaper and its sister publication defended the hiring of a registered sex offender as a reporter covering the police and court beats after facing criticism from a rival paper and national media watchdog ...

Former Illinois Drug Court Judge Gets Prison Time Following Fellow Judge’s Fatal Overdose

Former Illinois Drug Court Judge Gets Prison Time Following Fellow Judge’s Fatal Overdose

by Joe Watson

A former judge over an Illinois drug court is serving a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to drug and weapons charges in connection with the 2013 death of a fellow judge from a ...

How U.S. Prison Officials Rubberstamped a CIA Torture Chamber

How U.S. Prison Officials Rubberstamped a CIA Torture Chamber

by Carl Takei, ACLU National Prison Project

The CIA’s chief interrogator called it “the closest thing he has seen to a dungeon.”

At the agency’s COBALT detention site in Afghanistan – also known as the “Salt Pit” – detainees were ...

Seventh Circuit Upholds Wisconsin Sex Offender Registration Fee, Names John Doe Plaintiffs

Seventh Circuit Upholds Wisconsin Sex Offender Registration Fee, Names John Doe Plaintiffs

by Derek Gilna

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a district court’s ruling that found Wisconsin’s statute for sex offender registration, notification and monitoring violated constitutional ex post facto provisions. The plaintiffs, two sex offenders who ...

Prison Legal News Wins FOIA Appeal Against BOP

Prison Legal News Wins FOIA Appeal Against BOP

by Derek Gilna

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) hates publicity and hates revealing information about its operations to the general public. Recently, however, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck a blow for transparency by finding the BOP had failed to ...

Fourth Circuit Finds Strip Searches and Delousing of Arrestees Constitutional

Fourth Circuit Finds Strip Searches and Delousing of Arrestees Constitutional

by Lonnie Burton

On November 14, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the defendants in a case brought by two former prisoners who alleged that strip search and delousing procedures at two regional jails violated ...

Seventh Circuit: New Trial for Wrong Legal Standard in Jail Death Case

Seventh Circuit: New Trial for Wrong Legal Standard in Jail Death Case

by Mark Wilson

In an amended decision on August 14, 2014, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a district court had abused its discretion when it required an inadequate medical care claim involving the death of a ...

Washington Prisoner Granted Injunction Ordering Outside Orthopedic Evaluation

Washington Prisoner Granted Injunction Ordering Outside Orthopedic Evaluation

by Mark Wilson

A Washington federal district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering prison officials to have an orthopedic specialist evaluate a prisoner’s shoulder injury.

Washington prisoner Shawn Francis began complaining of shoulder pain in February 2007. After six months of ineffective ...

Court Denies Challenge to D.C. Sex Offender’s Website on Registry Officials

Court Denies Challenge to D.C. Sex Offender’s Website on Registry Officials

A website that “registers” and posts photos of government employees who work in the District of Columbia’s sex offender registration office is protected by the First Amendment, a D.C. Superior Court held in a February 14, 2014 ...

Terrorism Suspect Moves to Suppress Statements Made to FBI due to Torture Threats

Terrorism Suspect Moves to Suppress Statements Made to FBI due to Torture Threats

by Matt Clarke

A former British citizen with ties to the U.S.-designated terrorist group al-Shabaab asked a court to suppress statements he gave to FBI agents on the grounds that he was illegally pressured into ...

Vice President’s Son Discharged from Navy Due to Drug Use

Vice President’s Son Discharged from Navy Due to Drug Use

by Christopher Zoukis

In an embarrassing coda to Vice President Joe Biden’s long career as one of the chief architects of the War on Drugs, one of his sons was booted from the U.S. Navy after testing positive for ...

Michigan: Perjured Testimony at Trial Results in Habeas Relief, but Reversed on Appeal

Michigan: Perjured Testimony at Trial Results in Habeas Relief, but Reversed on Appeal

by David M. Reutter

A Michigan federal district court ordered the immediate release of a man convicted in a “sham” trial that involved the police, prosecutor and a trial judge who knowingly allowed witnesses to perjure themselves ...

Automatic Placement of Death Row Prisoner in Segregation Does Not Violate Due Process

Automatic Placement of Death Row Prisoner in Segregation Does Not Violate Due Process

by David M. Reutter

A Virginia federal district court held in November 2013 that automatic and indefinite placement of a death-sentenced prisoner in solitary confinement constitutes a deprivation of liberty without due process of law. The state ...

Tennessee Jail Considers Charging for Toilet Paper, Underwear

Tennessee Jail Considers Charging for Toilet Paper, Underwear

by Christopher Zoukis

On August 19, 2013, commissioners in Anderson County, Tennessee approved a resolution authorizing an expansion of pay-to-stay fees at the county jail. The resolution included a $50 daily fee for prisoners serving misdemeanor sentences, the removal of the existing ...

ACLU Awarded $50 Million to Help End Mass Incarceration

ACLU Awarded $50 Million to Help End Mass Incarceration

by Christopher Zoukis

On November 7, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it had received the largest grant in the organization’s history: $50 million from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. The donation will fund an eight-year campaign to slash America’s ...

Illinois University Faculty Member and PLN Contributor Fights for His Job after Opposing New County Jail

Illinois University Faculty Member and PLN Contributor Fights for His Job after Opposing New County Jail

by Joe Watson

In 2013, James Kilgore’s activism against a proposed new jail in Champaign, Illinois saved his community millions of dollars in construction costs and educated local residents on the profit motives of ...

Seventh Circuit Reverses Verdict when Prisoner Not Allowed to Poll Jury

Seventh Circuit Reverses Verdict when Prisoner Not Allowed to Poll Jury

by Derek Gilna

Illinois state prisoner Glenn Verser had been on a hunger strike when he claimed he was beaten by guards at the Western Correctional Center in September 2007 while involved in a cell transfer. He promptly filed ...

Liability against Taser for Negligence Upheld but $5.5 Million Damages Award Reversed

Liability against Taser for Negligence Upheld but $5.5 Million Damages Award Reversed

by David M. Reutter

In November 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury’s finding that Taser International was liable for negligence in the death of a teenager tased by a police officer. However, the ...

Corporations You’ve Never Heard of are Making Millions from Mass Incarceration

By James Kilgore, Truthout

Likely the most well-known prison profiteers in the United States are the Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. Between them, these two firms pulled in about $3.3 billion last year running scores of private prisons and immigration detention centers.

However, these two ...

Texas Prisoner Held in Prison 35 Years after Conviction Vacated

Texas Prisoner Held in Prison 35 Years after Conviction Vacated

by Matt Clarke

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas denied a bid to halt the retrial of a mentally challenged prisoner whose original conviction was overturned but who remained incarcerated almost 35 years later. In ...

News in Brief

News in Brief

Alabama: Ricky Deangelo Hinkle, 47, began threatening other prisoners and disrupting the lunch meal at the Jefferson County Jail on September 11, 2014. As jailers were placing him in a segregation cell, he allegedly started to fight. A guard then used his Taser on Hinkle, who immediately ...